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Nigerian President Deploys Troops Ahead of Senate Election Saturday

An election banner hangs on a pedestrian bridge in Mushin Neighborhood in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, March 23, 2011

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a countrywide deployment of troops and other security personnel ahead of Senate elections Saturday. Supporters say the presence of security officials will calm fears of violence and boost public confidence, making voters feel it’s safe to take part. But critics say the soldiers, who are under the direct control of the president, may be used to intimidate the opposition.

The deployment of troops is not ideal, but it is in the national interest, said Innocent Chukwuma, executive director of the CLEEN Foundation, a voter advocacy group.

“It has become part of our preparation for elections,” he said.

Dates of Elections

  • National Assembly Elections
    2/4/2011 – 17/4/2011
  • Presidential Elections
    9/4/2011 – 10/4/2011
  • Government/State Assembly Elections
    16/4/2011 – 17/4/2011
  • Source: Nigeria Independent Electoral Commission

Because of the violent build-up to the elections in several states, Chukwuma said, the government has a duty to deploy troops to protect lives and property.

Given those clashes, he said, there are fears that there might be a breakdown of law and violence on Election Day. For that reason, he said, it is a “welcome development and a reassurance from INEC that they would not be seen in any polling booth.”

The opposition argues that since the president controls the security forces directly, a display of military muscle might intimidate its supporters.

Chuwkuma disagrees.

“I think it’s a valid fear, but then it should also be understood that practically every role player in the electoral process is controlled by the federal government,” he said.

View slide show on Nigeria elections